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    [2001 onwards]


'Progress comes when there is freedom from terror'

QUICK-WITTED and media-friendly, Arun Jaitley, the Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary in charge of Gujarat, is a tireless defender of caretaker Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Unlike his counterpart in the Congress, Kamal Nath, Jaitley does not believe the BJP's future is linked to the Gujarat poll.

Jaitley, who is also a BJP spokesperson, is confident of a win, thanks, as he puts it, to "a leadership that is very popular and clean in image".

A former Union law minister, Jaitley appeared on the Rediff Chat on December 11, 2130 hours (1100 EST) to discuss his party's chances in Gujarat.

arun : Hello, Mr Jaitley. You have never fought an election in your life, not counting that DUSU [Delhi University Students Union] one. So how come you are planning an election campaign?
Arun Jaitley : Good Evening. I have never visualized myself as a professional politician and hence have never contested in an election. It came to me as a surprise when the prime minister asked me to join his Cabinet. However, I have been in politics for 32 years from the grassroots to the Cabinet. My experience of the last 32 years is politics helps me in organizing my party's campaign. From 1989 onwards, I have planned every campaign for the BJP central party.

jairam : Mr Jaitley, BJP policy of hindutva is communally dividing the nation instead of our focus on poverty alleviation and economic improvements like our neighbours
Arun Jaitley : Let's not go by cliches. It's terrorism that divides. It needs to be eliminated. The BJP's economic performance is far better than that of the Congress. The economy survived the slowdown period. Poverty rates during Congress governments were from 55% to 40%. Today the below poverty line population is less than 25%. You need 10 more years of faster economic growth.

concernedNRI : Living in the US we are so aware of the vision this country's leaders have for the nation. They know exactly where they are going to be in the next fifty years, but India is just a giant rumbling through the motions largely due to the lack of direction and leaders. Do you agree with this??
Arun Jaitley : The last twelve years the country's direction is correct, but the pace of growth should be faster. I'm not a cynic. We freed ourselves of the shackles of government control. An economy of shortages is now an economy of surplus. Our knowledge resource is tremendous. However, the economy needs to be globally competitive. Good economics should emerge from better politics -- also cleaner politics.

Administrator : Dear Friends, Mr Jaitley has got logged out due to line problems in Ahmedabad. He is trying to log back and should be with us in a few minutes.

Human : You were the law minister some time back, don't u agree that we have some of the best laws but even then justice is never provided. isn't it a fact that a man on the street would never like to enter into a court battle for it would take years to be settled? eg it took 10 yrs for the sentencing of Mrs Gandhi's killers, if that's the case of a PM then think about the common man.
Arun Jaitley : Our justice system is fair but painfully slow. I tried to introduce some reforms. However, we must now learn to balance between the rule of law, and expedition. I believe that we pay a large amount of democracy tax which renders change very slow.

Arun Jaitley : Gujarat needs peace. Gujarat needs further progress. Progress comes when there is security and freedom from terror. The BJP is committed to providing all these.

raameesh : ATTN Shah: Because why congress chose Sonia to lead instead of some other senior politician
Arun Jaitley : Mrs Indira Gandhi rendered the Congress as a crowd around a family instead of a political party. It is dynasty which holds the party together rather than ideology.

viv : what do U think... if BJP wins back power in gujrat it will be an indication of hindutva gaining popularity again after babri masjid demolition???
Arun Jaitley : The BJP under Keshubhai and Modi performed well on road connectivity and water. The BJP and Modi are perceived as strong and tough. They can govern and fight tough. The Congress is perceived as soft on terror. I find that our critics are redefining an anti-terrorism positioning as Hindutva. I disagree, but will not quarrel with them.

V.Desai : Arunji, Do you think Congress is stupid enough to appease Muslim population which is just 10% of Gujarat population and not appease Hindu, who are 90% of the population?
Arun Jaitley : With the Congress in Gujarat we could not have expected a better BJP-friendly option. It regards terrorism as a non-issue. It started its campaign from the temples and ended it with Islamic fatwas. It has no leader to match Modi. At the end of the campaign I am still searching for what was the core issue of the election. The absence of a core issue will bring about a sore result for them.

ishaan : sir!! being a student of business economics i am worried about the extent to which these polls will affect the BJP's agenda on indian economy. to what extent do u think will these polls affect the BJP's liberalisation policies with bill on labour policies just around the corner..??
Arun Jaitley : Sadly, economy issues don't influence elections. Ideally they should. It is a part of my belief as a nationalist to be an economic liberal. It is only that course which can accelerate growth.

dramanand : Mr Jaitley, how can a so-called educated man like you be a member of an obscurantist, fascist organisation like the BJP?
Arun Jaitley : I reject your understanding of the BJP. The Nehruvian thought, which regarded everything that was Indian, ethnical, traditional and cultural Indian, as obscurantist and fundamentalist damaged the Indian ethos. We are criticized because it is said that we are pro-Hindu. The threat to global secularism doesn't come from either Indian nationalism or Hinduism, it comes from elsewhere -- you know where. It is sad that people like you consider fellow travelling with that threat as secularism. I think you and I need to rediscuss political definitions.

sudesh : mr jaitley, it seems new delhi is hell bent on imposing its dictatorial policies in kashmir. the recent issue of prisoners release proved it. why is it so?
Arun Jaitley : Sudesh, your vision on Kashmir needs a relook. Nations are held together not with the appeasement of terror. To oppose the release of terrorists in Kashmir is not dictatorial, it is born out of love for your country. The whole context of the human rights movement has changed in the last one decade. The human rights movement was perceived as protecting the citizen from the oppressive power of the state. Today, the violation of human rights emanates from non-state terror groups. Crushing terror to save the citizen is no dictatorship.

sunshyne : Mr Jaitly... it's being felt around here that if in gujarat elections the BJP wins then it would be the win of falsehood over truth and prove the stranglehold of the caretaker govt of gujarat on the free and fair process of elections there... and all this with the active support of the central leadership and the govt... how do u react to it???
Arun Jaitley : Don't be cynical. Democracy is a great leveller. If BJP wins Gujarat, it is just that people are fair. In that event you must accept that you were misled.

V.Desai : There have been only two instances of Terrorist activity in Gujarat and that too in last 8 months, Godhra and Akshardham. Gujarat had some riots limited to certain areas since last 50 yrs, but never a terrorist attack. What can be the reason for that, considering that Rajasthan and Punjab too are close to Pakistan border?
Arun Jaitley : There are two reasons for it, firstly, why did Musharraf refer to J&K and Gujarat in his UN speech. Secondly, after the pseudo-secularists downplayed and rationalized the Godhra incident, the perpetrators of terror stand encouraged.

dilipbhandari : Why BJP need to be offensive on Hindu-related issues? What is wrong to take favour of religion and Hinduism in politics? All parties want vote and why BJP want to change his face? Why just BJP need to follow Raj Dharam? It is because PM. Don't you think that if you go current direction you will be back to 2 MPs in next election?
Arun Jaitley : The Gujarat election is on an anti-terrorism plank. We allow cliches to overtake us and perceive this as Hindutva. Every religious denomination on this issue must think alike.

Arun Jaitley : Thank you. Sorry, time has run out.

Administrator : Thank you all for being with us today. We had a full house. We hope you all enjoyed the chats.

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